BellaOnline Literary Review
TIny Frog by Carole Bouchard

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Non Fiction

Vulcan: A father of mine...

Murray Dunlap

No, I was not born in Birmingham. I was born in Mobile, Alabama. I lived every day of my youth in the same bedroom, in the same house, until college set me free. Introspective by nature, I was a confused child. My father was an alcoholic. I saw him infrequently, to very different moods. I tried to understand how these stumbling silhouettes of my father were always the same man.

And I thought of how I could get away.

I tried Sewanee first. I was miserable on the mountain. I tried Birmingham-Southern next. My roommate, Alex, died of cancer. I was a confused young man. I tried the University of Georgia. That did not work out, so I tried LSD. That did not work out either. I was not able to stick with LSD and receive a degree of any kind, so I returned to Birmingham-Southern and finally finished college. It was a transcript that read as unclearly as my disrupted brain. It did allow me to be accepted into graduate school in California (U.C. Davis), however, and I received a master’s degree in creative writing. I knew I would one day write my analog of insanity to show my Vulcan father.

I published several short stories in Steel Toe Review – named in reference to Vulcan’s big toe. I wrote about my deceased brother-in-law in Weld: a Birmingham on-line magazine of sorts.

I worked at Alabama Outdoors, but became inspired to go to Virginia and build log cabins. I quickly realized that I could not do this for any real length of time, so I moved to California to study creative writing. I worked with Pam Houston. I thought I had life figured out. I was eventually hired to teach English at my old high school… That took me to Mobile and a red-light I will never forget.

Amnesia aside.

You see, within a mile of the house I lived in, a man ran a red light.

Mobile was my place of birth, but I cannot consider it home. My car wreck was more than a little problematic, and I have not felt the kinship one might.

Three months of coma followed by six months of wheelchair. I had moved to Mobile to teach, but with a brain injury, I was not exactly the same candidate they had hired. I had thought I would be happy as a high school teacher. I never got that chance.

And so Birmingham can and will be home. Again, I went to college at Birmingham-Southern. After another friend, Shane, died, I graduated but stayed in Birmingham and called it home.

Now, I am even more confused than when I tried LSD. Confused to say the very least. But, as my mind clears, I prepare to move back to the magic city. I will live in Cahaba Heights Village and will be close to my brother and his beautiful family. I will try to jog again. I hope to stay fit and keep writing. I am making a life.

I have been lucky enough to run again. I had run much in high school. I had been the fastest in the state. I ran. I ran from a drunken father. I ran from an undefined future. I ran from jobs I failed to enjoy. I ran.

Following the wreck and wheelchair, I thought my running days were over. But, as a determined man, I limped along. I jog/walked the Sawyerville 5K. It made no difference that I appeared to have a stroke victim’s gait (and have been stopped and asked several times, “are you okay?”). I ran. It was enough for me to lose the fifty pounds I gained in my wheelchair/walker/limping days. I got back to my sit-up / push-up routine from pre-wreck days.

I met the love of my life. I published my first book. It seemed that I had put a life back together. So I will return to Birmingham a recovered man.

I should add that I partly come back to live closer to my love, who lives in Fayette. The five-and-a-half hour drive from Daphne to Fayette is just too much. But as I said, I have family here and I have loved Vulcan for much of my life. I was not born here, but for me, Vulcan is a father of mine

I’ll add that after I was first in a coma, I was airlifted from Mobile to Spain rehabilitation in Birmingham. As usual, Vulcan sought to save his son. I owe this father of mine my life, literally. At Spain, I went from coma to a very confused man in his late thirties who had no idea what was expected of him or how to behave. I had gone from a confident man who was used to things coming easily to him to the humility of not being allowed to do the simplest things.

Still in a wheelchair, I returned to Mobile. Mistake. Nothing good happened there. I moved to Georgia. Worse mistake. I’ll not go into that miserable story. I moved to Daphne, a lovely town, but have desired to return to Vulcan’s healing magic city. I was forced to start over, literally, having to relearn to walk and drive and act normal socially. I relearned every last thing that makes up living an adult life.

On my return to Birmingham, I will embrace Vulcan and take his healing magic with utter seriousness. And in the hopes I can give something back, I am planning to volunteer at healing institutions. I will be proof that with all the fun of a coma and brain injury and wheelchair aside, life does go on.

Thank you Vulcan, for being the father I never had, and for giving me a bit of your healing magic city.

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Reader Feedback:
It's almost unfair for me to write a comment. I don't know that I can be objective. You see, I fell in love with Murray's prose when I read Bastard Blue. Then, I read Fires, and I realized that it was no fleeting love--I found his style so lyrical but accessible. So, when I saw that this was written by Murray Dunlap, I knew I would love it. I know his story and feel that I know him much better than I do. That's how intimate his writing is. It is personal, yet universal. I am not a young man from Mobile who was crippled by an auto crash; I don't love Birmingham; but when I read this, I am and I do.


Thank you Bonnie! I am sorry I am just now seeing this and apologize I did not see it before... Wishing you well!